Spain’s La Tomatina festival returns after pandemic pause

Thousands of revelers splattered each other with tomatoes on Wednesday, celebrating the return of Spain’s iconic La Tomatina food fight festival after a two-year lapse due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran (IMNA) - Trucks laden with overripe tomatoes crawled through the narrow streets of Buñol, an eastern Spanish town about 25 miles from Valencia, as local residents on board hurled them at the crowd in an hour-long frenzy, leaving the area drenched in red pulp.

Some participants donned goggles to protect their eyes, while their clothes were soaked with juice and red goo. Others simply bathed themselves in the pulp.

The festival — traditionally held on the last Wednesday of August — was inspired by a food fight instigated by local children in 1945, according to organizers. It has inspired similar celebrations worldwide, including in cities in Colorado and Nevada.

Spain’s La Tomatina festival returns after pandemic pause

Such is the lure of La Tomatina that the town now limits access to 22,000 people. It charges an entry fee that starts at about $12.

“We were really eager to resume our beloved party, to once again be able to throw tomatoes at each other and release all the adrenaline we built up these last two years,” local tourism official Maria Valles told Agence France-Presse.

A Japanese student in Spain, who identified herself on Twitter as Ami Moto, celebrated what she called a “once in a lifetime” experience. “I’m glad that I got to experience it while I am young,” she wrote, alongside a photo of a street covered in crushed tomatoes.

After each tomato fight, streets are hosed down and the revelers shower off. Related festivities, including concerts and contests, last into the night.

This year’s crowd, at about 15,000, fell short of the roughly 20,000 that the local government had hoped for, according to AFP. It is also the first time in many years that the number of Spanish participants surpassed that of foreigners, El País reported. The newspaper said that some 80 percent of the festival’s visitors before the pandemic came from abroad, many from Japan, China and Australia.

Spain’s La Tomatina festival returns after pandemic pause

The town’s order of tomatoes this year was 15 tons below what it placed in 2019, citing rising food prices and labor costs, according to the newspaper.

Some Twitter users expressed concern about the food waste caused by La Tomatina, though organizers noted that the tomatoes were overripe and unfit for consumption.

Spain expects its tourism sector to return to pre-pandemic levels this year, though the number of foreign visitors from the important Asia-Pacific market is still relatively low given covid-related travel restrictions in China.

Spain’s La Tomatina festival returns after pandemic pause


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